As I keep saying, it’s funny over time how certain behaviours or actions become habit – at which point they are never questioned. It becomes the “norm” to do these things and suddenly we are doing it without thinking. One such behaviour is to use baking paper. A lot of us use it frequently and no one really questions it.
I know myself a little while ago I started reading about the negative impacts on the environment from using conventional baking paper and changed to another brand – making a mental note to carry out further research on the health impacts.
Fast forward the last six months or so and it slipped my mind….and so I got back into the habit of just using whatever brand Woolies had on sale. Until now.
Why can baking paper be harmful to you?
There are two causes for concern – firstly being during production some baking papers are bleached with chlorine. This means when the paper is heated it can leach dioxin. Dioxin is highly toxic and can cause many health issues, such as developmental problems, hormonal interference or cause cancer (what doesn’t these days).
The second issue is that the paper is coated to make it non-stick. Generally these days silicon is used, which is “believed” to be safe for use in cooking. Well at the moment anyway. Historically (perhaps some brands still use this, but I haven’t located any within Australia) Quilon was used, which contains heavy metals which you ideally don’t want heated and/or near your food.
Why can baking paper be harmful to the environment?
Firstly obviously producing a paper product means trees have had to be cut down! Baking paper is one of those items we really don’t need to use and results in so much waste!
Secondly, when chlorine is used in the bleaching process the effluent from the bleaching pulp contains toxic organochlorines, which (although treated to some degree in Australia) are released into the environment causing pollution.
So what does this mean for us?
A lot of the literature available on this subject is from the US and is based on their production methods (which can be different from Australia). If we are going to break it down, on the chlorine side of things, I cannot locate any information about the production process and the use of chlorine to bleach the paper. As for the coating, looking at the most popular brand available in Australia (Glad Bake), they do state their paper is coated with silicone.
This is another area where you need to understand the possible risks, think about how you feel and what’s important to you and then make a decision. For me, I feel if there’s a more natural avenue to take, I would prefer to do so!
What are the alternatives?
For me, I have returned to the good old-fashioned method of greasing baking trays when cooking. When I next order my pantry goodies from Biome, I will include some of the “If You Care” brand of baking paper (unbleached), so if I do want to use some paper, I have some unbleached stuff on hand. They also produce parchment sheets and baking cups.
My aim moving forwards however is to try and grease everything, as really it’s not that much harder, it saves money and prevents waste going to landfill.
If you’re looking for eco friendly, low tox products for your family, including baking paper, check out Biome: